An overwhelming bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives want more transparency at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
A total of 401 Congress members from both parties voted Tuesday for H.R. 1265, the Bureau Advisory Commission Transparency Act, sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisc.
Just two members voted against the bill.
The bill would bring greater transparency and accountability to the CFPB by subjecting it to the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Only three agencies are exempted by statute from open meeting provisions in the Federal Advisory Committee Act – the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Federal Reserve.
Since May 2014 it has been the CFPB’s voluntary policy to open full meetings of the Bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board and Councils to the public, the same way most other agencies allow under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. This measure would make that a legal obligation.
Supporters of the reform note that the CFPB is not involved in intelligence collection, covert operations, or the formation of monetary policy, and therefore they argue that there is no reason that it cannot hold its committee and subcommittee meetings in public.
"What is the CFPB doing that is on par with the CIA? It makes everyone want to ask, 'what exactly goes on in these meetings?'” Duffy has said previously.
The CFPB has argued that it is not subject to the FACA, a 1972 law that is supposed to ensure that Congress and the public know what's being discussed in government consumer advisory meetings, who is attending them, and how much they are costing taxpayers.
CFPB Director Richard Cordray said the meetings are closed to the public because the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a sunshine law passed in 1972, does not apply to the Bureau.
The issue has become so pressing that one U.S. Senator recently called the CFPB a “rogue agency” that needs to be seriously reined in.
An effort is afoot in the Senate to subject the CFPB to Congressional appropriations, which would further open the bureau to public scrutiny.
“The reckless Consumer Finance Protection Bureau was spawned from the disastrous Dodd-Frank financial regulation law,” Sen. David Perdue, R-GA, said last month.
“Right now, the CFPB is a rogue agency that dishes out malicious financial policy and creates new rules and regulations without any oversight from Congress,” Perdue added. “On top of that, the agency itself has failed to operate within its own budget and proven it is more concerned with preserving its own power than protecting the public.”
Perdue is seeking to change all of that by introducing a budget amendment to make the CFPB subject to the Congressional appropriations process. “Currently, the CFPB operates under the Federal Reserve and is unaccountable to Congress,” Perdue’s office said in a release.
Similarly, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said at a hearing last month that the CFPB remains unaccountable and should be held to more transparent standards.
“The CFPB undoubtedly remains the single most powerful and least accountable Federal agency in all of Washington,” Hensarling said. “When it comes to the credit cards, auto loans and mortgages of hardworking taxpayers the CFPB has unbridled, discretionary power not only to make those less available and more expensive, but to absolutely take them away.
The Bureau Advisory Commission Transparency Act now goes to the Senate for consideration.